Returning to church yesterday morning felt like coming home. We had been on a trip through several states for the past 11 days, and both of those Sundays were driving days. We did enjoy two leisurely meals in the company of ordained ministers — both former students — but these pleasant encounters were not the same as congregational worship experiences.
I realized how much I missed that as I slid into a pew at our home church yesterday. It felt wonderful. Nothing compares.
Church attendance seemed the norm when I was a child. I grew up in a Methodist household, and our immediate family of five regularly attended Sunday School and worship services at the small church of that denomination not far from our home. Sunday mornings generally began with hotcakes and wonderful-smelling bacon and the radio tuned to Wings Over Jordan. Dressed in out Sunday best, we all walked four blocks to our church. From his seat in the choir, Dad could watch us children for any signs of boredom or misbehavior. I suspect that similar scenarios play out in all faith traditions throughout the world and have for centuries.
Individuals practice their faith in a variety of ways, to be sure. Private prayer is a big part of that. So is social action. But for me, nothing takes the place of worshiping in the same place with others, praying together, singing hymns, taking communion, drinking in the inspiring message of the choir’s music and the sermon, greeting others.
I believe in the priesthood of all believers. We all minister to one another, in a variety of ways, not all of them obvious to the giver or the receiver of such blessings. For me, attending church, participating in congregational worship, is the best part of that, my weekly return to the source of ultimate nourishment.